Patriots gear up for another big season

March 16, 2010

By Staff

After 2009 season, Eagles look to rebound, Spartans to reload

Troy Colyer, of Liberty High School, gets a pat at third base from coach Steve Darnell after he smashes a three-RBI home run during a 2009 baseball game against West Seattle. By Greg Farrar

The Liberty High School baseball team is gearing up for another big season with 12 returning seniors, including powerhouse pitcher John McLeod.

Liberty went 20-5 overall and 16-2 in 3A KingCo Conference action last season. The Patriots won the 3A KingCo regular season title. In the postseason, the Patriots lost to Bellevue in the KingCo tournament, and defeated West Seattle in a playoff before falling to Timberline in the state regionals.

The 2010 season marks head coach Steve Darnell’s second year at the helm, and he said the Patriots are ready to go.

“I think they’re just pretty hungry and humble from last year,” he said about his returning players. “I know it’s hardened them for what we’re about to start.”

He also said the team is looking to improve upon last year’s season, which was quite successful.

“We would definitely like to represent KingCo at state,” Darnell said.

Meanwhile in the 4A KingCo Conference, Issaquah has a strong pitching staff and Skyline has another competitive team as both hope to challenge for the Crest Division title.

McLeod leads Patriots

McLeod will be perhaps the most dangerous man on the Liberty squad this year, and he has already signed with Wake Forest to play at the college level.

“He’s a great leader,” Darnell said.

Last year, McLeod was 8-1 overall with 56 innings pitched and 57 strikeouts. He pitched 43 of his innings and racked up 46 of his strikeouts in league play. His overall ERA was 2.10 and his ERA in league play was 1.63.

Last year, he was named first-team all-league by unanimous selection for his work on the mound.

Darnell said shortstop Troy Colyer will be a threat as well. Colyer is one of the returning seniors, and he was named first-team all-league last year. He will bat third in the Patriots’ lineup.

Other impact players on the team include centerfielder Troy Askins, third baseman Nick Hart, pitcher Dan Eck and catcher Cameron Talley. All four are seniors. Askins and Hart were named second-team all-league last year.

However, this year the team must do without shortstop Erick Peterson, a 2009 graduate who now plays for the University of Washington.

Liberty’s toughest competition could come from Mount Si and Bellevue, although no team can be overlooked.

Mount Si figures to be competitive with the return of such players as pitcher Frank Tassara and outfielder Rossco Castagno. Last season, Tassara finished with a 2.10 ERA and held batters to just a .132 batting average. Castagno hit .509 with 29 hits, 15 RBIs and had a league-leading 16 stolen bases.

Liberty, which had its March 12 season-opener at Skyline postponed because of rain, begins league play March 17 at Juanita.

Pitching key for Eagles

Issaquah had a rare off season in 2009, going 14-12. However, the Eagles figure to be one of the tougher 4A KingCo squads this spring, because of an experienced pitching staff.

The Eagles will see the return of five experienced pitchers, including all-league Shane Yarnell and Spencer Rogers. Yarnell was 4-3 with 38 strikeouts in 37.2 innings last spring. He should be one of the league’s best pitchers again.

Rogers, perhaps better known for his prowess as a hitter and defensive skills as a center fielder, was one of the Eagles’ top hurlers last season, too. He had a 2-1 record with one save.

Ethan Kalin, Mike Paulson and Matt Houser also return on the mound for Issaquah.

“It’s nice to have all that experience,” Issaquah coach Rob Reese said.

Rogers, who has signed a national letter of intent with the University of Washington, is one of the best all-around players in the league. He has earned all-state honors the past two seasons. As a junior, Rogers hit .410, belted three home runs and led the team in RBIs with 15. Just who joins Rogers in the outfield is still a mystery; the other returning starters graduated.

In the infield, Marcus Gaan returns at third base, and Paulson and Yarnell will be at first base. Gaan was one of Issaquah’s top hitters last season, batting .415. Shortstop Grant Gellatly, who missed last spring because of an injury, is also back.

“Having him back is huge. He’s a great athlete and an outstanding player,” Reese said. “Not having him last year really hurt.”

Issaquah has lost one player for the season — second baseman Gavin Shumaker — because of an injury. Adam Dondoyano will replace Shumaker.

Devin O’Donnell returns as catcher for the Eagles.

“I think we have a chance to be pretty good, but the whole league is tough,” Reese said.

Skyline works on fundamentals

The Skyline Spartans are gearing up for life without ace pitcher Adrian Sampson and workhorse pitcher Jared Lemke, who graduated last spring and now plays for Central Washington University.

Sampson, a senior, was 7-1 last season and earned all-league honors. However, he missed the entire summer American Legion season because of an injury. His status for this spring is unknown.

Skyline went 15-8 overall in 2009 (11-5 league) and coach Chris Tamminen said he hopes his few returning starters will step up big this season to give hard-hitting Redmond a run for its money.

“I’m thinking our pitching is still going to be strong,” he said.

Key returning players include outfielder Sean Penberthy, and pitchers Connor Lawhead and Peyton Harrod.

Tamminen added a slew of senior newcomers to the roster in 2010, including pitchers Jayce Nelson, Jim Carnes and Ryan Weideman. The Spartans will look to infielders Jake Opitz and Aaron Caditz, and outfielders Anthony DeMatteo and Michael Smith, for leadership and quick thinking in the field.

The key to success this season: focus on the fundamentals, Tamminen said.

“We have to make sure we have good team chemistry and do all the little things right,” he said.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Bob Taylor: ext. 236, or bobtaylor@isspress.com. Tim Pfarr: ext. 239, or newcas@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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